Friday, November 21, 2014

How Do You Know If a Child Is Saved?

Although several weeks ago our neighbor boy asked Jesus to come into his life, we have not seen spiritual fruit. His grandmother picks him up from our house at 9:30 or 10:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Following tonight's pick-up, I mentioned to my husband and to my boys that I doubted he had truly become a Christian.

When I open the Bible or a missionary book, he doesn't want to listen. When we have our Saturday Bible study, he begs to play with the Snap Circuits our son Paul got for his birthday (we refuse).

Spiritual hunger just isn't there.

When I became a Christian at age 31, I asked questions of my friend Phyllis--the fellow first grade teacher who brought me to the Lord--before school started most mornings, at recess, after school, at her house during Bible study, and on the weekends over the phone. I read my Bible for hours and listened exclusively to Christian radio. I lived and breathed the Lord because I was on fire and simply couldn't get enough.

Not an inkling of that hunger is evident in our neighbor boy, so I don't know what's in his heart.

My comment was ill-timed. It made Peter very depressed, despite my explaining what I'm sure he already realized: We cannot save Landon. We can't even save ourselves. It is the Lord's decision.

But I reminded Peter that Landon used to come here only twice a month for Bible study and a couple times a week to play outside, and now he comes 10 hours a week to participate in our family ways (even some he didn't bargain for). And it was all orchestrated by God. We have to trust that God has a plan for this young boy's salvation.

Peter listened to me, but still he went to bed dejected and I was sorry I'd even spoken. For all his difficulties and challenging behaviors, you can't ever say my Peter doesn't care about souls. His sensitivity toward the lost astounds me. I don't know what the Lord will do with it, though I remember every time Peter reads a missionary book, he feels somewhat scared.

"Mommy, the Lord is calling me to be a missionary, but I want to be a farmer."

(They all still call me Mommy, thank goodness.)

I never get too concerned, and only say, "Then you'll be a farmer out on the mission field. That's not too big for God."

I happen to know that the traditional route for missionaries is long and expensive, with lots of college, but people like Katie Davis just up and go to Uganda and start non-profits at 19 years old, and adopt 13 orphans while they're at it, skipping college and missionary credentials altogether.

To Peter the question of his friend's salvation seems so simple, at least for now: "But Landon believes that Jesus died on the cross for his sins."

The tricky thing is, I told him, I believed that same thing for as long as I could remember--even as a child--but I didn't become a Christian until age 31. All those years, I was trying to earn my own way to Heaven by being good enough to pay Jesus back.  To me, it wasn't a free gift. By golly, I could do it. I could be good enough. Failing miserably I was, but trying stubbornly nonetheless. Every time I would fail in my single adult years, I would stop going to church for a while. The whole time I never had any personal relationship with God, or the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The key question is, how wretched do you perceive yourself...without Jesus? Are you humble enough to accept that without him you're as filthy rags? Have you known the failure of trying to be good in your own strength? Are you a defeated wretch?

We humans are a haughty people at our core. The Cross sounds good and all. Jesus sounds wonderful and all, but to get to that terribly humbling place...well...that's another story.

You can't really receive Jesus until you accept your wretchedness...your failure.

That's why not every person who says a salvation prayer makes it to heaven.

Little children accept the Gospel easily, but still, there must come a time as they mature when they realize how wretched they are on their own.

As parents we fail all. the. time. God doesn't shelter us from our failure. We feel the let down.

Children fail all the time too. We can't shelter them from those uncomfortable feelings. We have to let them feel the full brunt of their own wretchedness, so they see their need for a Savior. Then we take them into our fold, leading them to the Cross.

The entire Old Testament's emphasis on the Law wasn't to condemn, so much as to point us to our need for a Savior. There is no one righteous.

I won't wake up in the morning to hear a brother sweetly singing his sister's praises, no matter how much I counsel (that would be the Peter and Mary battle of wills around here).

Even my Paul, who is "practically perfect in every way", like Mary Poppins, is full of pride about his relative goodness in relation to his siblings. If it isn't outright naughtiness, it's pride. (Thankfully, Paul is learning to recognize the pride.)

1. In my view, a sure sign a child is saved is when the child expresses some awareness of his own wretchedness.

Do they ever get to a point when they want to go before the Lord and get some relief of their guilt burden? Do you see a joy afterwards, a freed soul? A Christian is free and grateful. 

2. Do they ever repeat aloud what the Holy Spirit is saying to them? 

The Holy Spirit is surely holding conversations with a saved child, and you will likely hear about a number of them.

I'm going to turn this over to some expert pastoral views, but before I do that, I want to say that I believe sanctification, which follows salvation through the years, is the process by which we slowly give up our own way by making Jesus our Lord. When we are first saved, we may understand our own sinfulness, but are we ready to give up our own way? Usually not. We still want to see the movies we want to see and hang with the people we want to be with, and wear the hot clothes that look good on us. We want to spend our money the way we see fit, and buy the largest house we can afford. The Lord slowly changes all that, and the process is called sanctification. It's giving up our own way, and making Jesus our Lord, not just our Savior.

Expert Views: How do we really know if a child is saved? 

Some good minds have been asked this question, and I'll share their responses below

  • Does the child show a growing love for God?
  • Does the child demonstrate love and concern for others?
  • Does the child have a growing appreciation for God’s grace?
  • Is the child learning to pray and spend time alone with God?
  • Does the child have a sense of their own sinfulness?
  • Does the child demonstrate new spiritual desires?
  • Does the child continue in their faith over time?
Rick Gamache, Senior Pastor of Sovereign Grace Fellowship, regularly asks these questions of his children:

  • How are your devotions?
  • What is God teaching you?
  • In your own words, what is the gospel?
  • Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?
  • Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
  • What’s daddy most passionate about?
  • Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
  • Are you aware of my love for you?
  • Is there any way I've sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
  • Do you have any observations for me?
  • How am I doing as a dad?
  • How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?
  • Does my relationship with mom make you excited to be married?
  • (On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationship. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.)

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